In an interview with MSNBC, Attorney General Eric Holder ruled out what supporters of Edward Snowden have demanded: Were the whistle-blower to return to the U.S. from hiding in Russia, he would not be granted clemency.
However, Holder suggested that a possible plea deal could be negotiated. “We’ve always indicated that the notion of clemency isn’t something that we were willing to consider. Instead, were he coming back to the U.S. to enter a plea, we would engage with his lawyers. ”
Crucially, this should not be read as a hint toward leniency for Snowden. Indeed, Chelsea Manning put forward a plea — admitting to handing over a trove of classified material to WikiLeaks — to face lesser charges. The whistle-blower received a 35-year sentence in a military prison. Indicating continued anger at Snowden, Holder declined to call the fugitive a whistle-blower: “I prefer the term defendant. That’s the most apt title,” he said.
One assumes, whatever else one might think, that Snowden is not naive: he knows absolutely that pleading to some of the charges is a definite route to serving time. My presumption is that he does not want to serve any time whatsoever. So he will stay in Russia. At least, that's my good guess.
This whole thing is not news at all. Holder is saying exactly what he said a month and two months ago. Snowden has probably not changed his position either. So this is really not a story. The only story would be if Holder said, "C'mon home, Ed; we'll drop the charges." And that is not going to happen. There is no game here.